Mayor McGinn on a tour of Grown Hill in October.
McGinn, One Year In
It was a year ago this month that the voters of Seattle elected Mike McGinn as the Mayor of Seattle. Now that the dust has settled on the most recent election, it’s time to take a step back and assess the Mayor’s performance, especially as it relates to Ballard. Unfortunately for Ballard and Seattle, it’s not looking good unless Mike can mend his ways.
Joe Mallahan and McGinn were political novices who rode a wave of anti-Nickels sentiment to capture the top two spots in last year’s mayoral race. The chief difference between these two Democrats (because, hey, the top two ballot is all about giving the voters “choices”) was that Mallahan supported Nickels’ tunnel vision and McGinn was against it until he changed his mind just before the election.
Once he was elected, however, McGinn’s lack of experience started to become a liability. As soon as he took office, he began waffling again on his support for the tunnel, supporting a public vote to replace the seawall, which got nowhere with the City Council, who is quite insistent in their support for the tunnel. He has also made quite valid case that he does not want Seattle on the hook for any cost overruns. Unfortunately, instead of getting assurances or taking people at their word, he decided to publicly question the integrity of Governor Gregoire and the state Legislature last month. Instead of working to craft compromises as politicians are supposed to do, he lashes out at people. So in less than a year, he has alienated the City Council, Governor and Legislature, not to mention city workers, business, and just about everyone else.
Maybe the Seattleites who voted him in appreciated his anti-tunnel stance, but principled opposition will only get you so far in politics. How is he supposed to govern for the next three years if he has only one supporter on the City Council? The answer: Unless he learns to not alienate everyone he has to work with, not very well. Earlier this month, there was a column in this paper about how McGinn supports the creation of light rail links connecting Ballard to the U-District and Downtown/ West Seattle. With all the densification and condo-building going on around Downtown Ballard, we definitely need wider roads, more transit, or both. Will McGinn be able to make his vision of light rail to Ballard a reality without any support? How is he going to get any of his other initiatives, or even future budgets passed?
Whether one supports the tunnel idea or not, isn’t it interesting to look back and recall how Nickels had a vision, crafted consensus, and did his part to get the necessary legislature passed so work could begin? Mayors are, more so than most elected officials, supposed to “get things done.” They are the ones who are in charge of getting the potholes filled, not creating gridlock. All the confusion McGinn has around the tunnel has a real impact on people and the business communities Downtown, in Ballard, and in South Seattle. There are many businesses in Ballard and elsewhere who use the Viaduct and their trucks will probably not be allowed in the tunnel. They need to start preparing their plans, but McGinn’s waffling about it is not helping. Why would people want to continue to do business here in such an uncertain climate?
I would hope that McGinn has learned something on the job about the realities of politics, otherwise it will be a long three years for Ballard and Seattle.